Maid in Manhattan

A Film Review By Michael Haley (aka Ha-Lo)

Rating:PG-13 for implied sexuality and maybe cuss words, I can’t remember
Starring: Jennifer Lopez, Ralph Fieenes, Bebe Neuwerth, Stanley Tucci, the guy that played Malcolm’s teacher on Macolm in the Middle
Directed By:Wayne Wong

Final Grade:

I’ve been told I’m cynical. I’ve been told I’m too hard on movies. I’ve been told to just “sit back and enjoy something for once.” Finally, I’ve been told I really don’t even like movies. Only the last statement is a filthy lie, although the rest are as true as it gets…why am I going on about needlessly about myself instead of reviewing the movie? Well, that’s merely to set up my next series of statements…Maid In Manhattan is a chick flick. MIM stars Jennifer Lopez in a false role that’s been done numerous times. Michael is bitter, and doesn’t like movies like this. Maid in Manhatten really sucked. Now this may shock you, but once again, only the last statement is false…although this film represents nothing but recycled situations, a predictable plot and so on, I’m giving it high praise. This may seem more like a movie The Mike would like (than again, he also likes anything with two legs) but rest assured, this is terrific entertainment.

J.Lo stars as Marissa, one of the maids cleaning up after the rich and famous at a four star hotel in New York. She has one of those adorable little boys that screenwriters love, who’s she’s trying to raise on a low income. She soon sees an opportunity for a better life for herself and her child when management sees her as a candidate for promotion. Things are looking bright when she chances upon an expensive outfit in a guest room, and seeing as it needs to be cleaned anyway, her friend urges her to try it on. Who should see her in this outfit but Senator Christopher Marshall (Fiennes) a would be Senator campaigning in New York. Her son, she, he, and his dog named Boo (just a guess) hit it off well. Thing is, he thinks she’s high society because of the dress she’s wearing, and because this is a movie, she can’t tell him tell him the truth right away. Will there be a happy ending for this Cinderella romance?

This film was a pleasant surprise…I was expecting dog food and got prime rib instead. The song used in the opening of the film reminded me of the trailer for The Royal Tenaumbaums, and in doing so, made me think, “Hm. Me like Royal Tenaumbaums, me like the song, me already like the movie!” Wait a minute…that sounds more like the Mike’s way of grading a movie, although it rings true for me as well. The actors and actresses here are terrific across the board, especially the two leads and the boy. Jennifer Lopez sheds her superstar image and plays her role with passion and conviction (I still don’t buy her in the role of a maid, but she gets as close to plausibility as is possible with her image) and Ralph Fiennes is a great romantic man. He doesn’t seem very likely after his turn in Red Dragon, but don’t worry girls…he’s debonair and charming, and not in the slightest creepy. Guys, Lopez doesn’t play a ditzy and shallow chick but an intelligent, free thinking woman who also happens to be easy on the eyes.

The one thing I really appreciated most of the movie is that while the plot is recycled (it’s been done ever since Cinderella) the characters actually feel like people that we know and trust, and can invest our emotions in. The little boy isn’t merely there to say, “Hey mom! Mr. Charming likes you!! Please make him my daddy!!!” and has a mind of his own. I liked how he was interested in everything 70’s like Nixon, music, and etc, but his conversations with Ralph Fiennes portrayed as an intelligent individual who actually knows what’s going on in the world around him. He and Fiennes bounce incredibly well off of each other in these scenes, and gives the film an extra bit of charm (guys, your girlfriends will say about the kid “Oh, he’s so cute!!!”) Lopez doesn’t blindly listen to everything Mr. Charming has to say, and confronts him head on the issues he’s campaigning for but knows little about, such as when he discusses his plans for the Bronx, and she asks him the hard questions that she experienced first hand growing up there. I liked how Fiennes actually gave a damn about her and her boy…not just because he wanted to jump in bed with her like most stupid romance movies, but because he was tired of always being agreed with, never being challenged. Their relationship in the film doesn’t serve just as usual romance, but as a way for the characters to explore the others’ lives, ideas, dreams, and so on. I wished that there was more to the relationship after the big conflict of the film instead of resolving it and cueing the credits, but so it goes.

I did have some issues with the film of course (this is a Michael Haley review, after all) and one is that I wish the plot wouldn’t have followed everything by the numbers and played things safe. These are great characters in the movie; I truly was absorbed into their lives, so why make it so obvious as to what’s going to happen next? If you’ve seen any romance film in the past, than the overall template is the same. Some surprises would have been nice, or failing that, at least make the plot seem original (the movie does try in this respect, but just falls short). Why does every romance movie have to follow through the same routines? Beats me, but they always do.

Nitpicking aside, this is a surprisingly pleasant film I really admired. I realize that many guys might disagree with me because this is “a chick flick” and therefore might not like it as much as I have. I just have one thing to say to those guys: “Hate it if you will, I don’t care. However, if you know what’s good for you, than TAKE YOUR DATE AND/OR GIRLFRIEND TO THIS MOVIE. She won’t regret it, and if you play your cards right, you won’t either.”

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